Activists have urged the Australian government to push for the repeal of anti-gay laws across the Asia-Pacific after Fiji’s High Court overturned the conviction of an Australian tourist for consensual gay sex last week.
In a decision handed down last Friday, Fiji’s High Court quashed the convictions of 55-year-old Australian tourist Thomas McCosker and Fijian Dhirendra Nadan, 23, because they clashed with constitutional guarantees of privacy and equality.
McCosker and Nadan were found guilty of consensual gay sex in April and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by a magistrate who called their behaviour something so disgusting it would make any decent person vomit.
The pair were convicted after McCosker reportedly told police Nadan had stolen about $1,500 from his wallet.
They were later freed pending an appeal, but had to wait until last week before High Court judge Gerard Winter reversed their sentences. McCosker reportedly returned home to Victoria this week.
McCosker’s lawyer, Natasha Khan, said the case was important but not the all-encompassing victory we were looking for, Australian Associated Press reported.
The High Court ruling only applied to gay sex in private, and the laws used to prosecute McCosker and Nadan remain on Fiji’s statute books, although it’s understood last week’s decision renders them inoperable.
Khan said prosecutors suggested they might appeal the court’s decision, which has drawn criticism from Fijian religious leaders.
Gay activists in Australia have called on the Australian government to use last Friday’s ruling as the impetus for reform in the region.
National lobbyist Rodney Croome told Sydney Star Observer several Asia-Pacific nations maintained anti-gay laws similar to those in Fiji, and called on the government to lobby for their repeal.
David Scamell, co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said Canberra needed to take a more positive and stronger public stance against the criminalisation of homosexuality.
The Australian government really needs to take a lead role. It’s obviously a major power in the Pacific, and it needs to take a role in enforcing human rights, he told the Star.
New national LGBT lobby group Australian Coalition for Equality called on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to update its travel advisories so tourists were informed about all countries with laws against homosexuality.
The group said DFAT only provided warnings about 26 of almost 90 countries that have laws against homosexuality.